I’m obsessed with glassware. However, in true bull in a china shop fashion, I’m less than graceful, so glassware doesn’t always love me. From glassware kitsch like Fire-King and Jadeite, to Irish crystal, Murano glass and Limoges. Sea-glass, Mercury glass, Carnival glass and hobnail. Chintzware, tea-sets and fine china. Ornaments and garden balls. Soda bottles and mason jars. By now I’m sure you’re glassy-eyed just reading this, and if so, I’ve made my point. But it’s true, I’ve always just loved and to be honest, hoarded, glass.
My big sis got a mosaic tile kit as a kid and I was so envious as she created the little ashtray project included. Toys were disturbing back then. Yes folks, you too, can teach your kiddo to make you an ashtray! Mosaic tile kits: making ashtrays cool since the 60’s! One thing I learned from coveting my sister’s mad ashtray skills: glass-working requires artistry. In her case, it mostly required messy glue on the webbed backing and tricky tile layout. And dilemma-when you’re done, do you give it as a gift, or save it for a few years till you’re old enough to light up? In her case, she used it for jewelry, and thereby dodged a wicked habit.
Speaking of smoke, everyone knows where there’s smoke there’s fire…and that brings me back around to my point. Glass. And me. And the fiery furnace.
Last year for Christmas in my quest for creative gift-giving, I gave my husband a Groupon for a glass-blowing workshop. In retrospect it’s one of those times where I gave a present that was better suited to me…(like the time Homer Simpson gave Marge a bowling ball for her birthday with his name “HOMER” engraved on it…awkward.) I could tell by the look on my husbands face that he was underwhelmed. But after one workshop, he was converted. The class not only taught glassblowing 101, but participants got to keep the treasures they crafted as a takeaway. In his case, it was an egg-shaped paperweight in Boise State’s renowned smurf-blue and bright orange colors. He loved the experience and declared it the best present ever! (And his paperwork has never flown off his desk since.)
The minute the Groupon was available again, I bought one workshop for my daughter and me, and one for my son & daughter-in-law to mark their first anniversary. (Which I think traditionally is paper…but I broke protocol and went for something more lasting.)
Now comes the part where I’m going to have to insert a disclaimer. I absolutely hate to try new things. I am a foot-dragging-stick-in-the-mud when it comes to anything even slightly adventurous or just out of my comfort zone. So the fact I even committed to trying something new was a leap. But this is the year of old dog, new tricks, (see older post), and so I hijacked my artsy daughter sidekick to go with me. After picking my project and colors, those crazy glass masters handed me a poker where I was on one end, and the other was a molten fiery blob. I quickly learned to slowly twirl the pole to hold the shape without letting the red-hot mass plop into the fiery abyss. It’s like toasting a marshmallow. A MARSHMALLOW THAT CAN KILL YOU! First one side gets globby, and you turn, turn, turn, (sing it like the Byrds,) balancing out the flaming goo and hoping it doesn’t go kaput. Next I got to roll the toasty blob into my color shards, then back into the fire, which is called the glory hole. (It reminded me more of a hell-hole…literally. Terrifying to think of hell as a fiery furnace when you’re actually NEAR the fiery furnace! Hopefully that’s as close to a singe as I will get.)
More twirling, and a couple more rolls in the glass chips-fast forward-fiery furnace-yada, yada-and we were to the glass blowing stage. A helper rolled the pole while I puffed down the tube to blow air into the piece so it could take shape. Actually, I was the helper, and the pole roller was the pro, but they let you feel like you are the creator and an artist in that moment. After following careful instructions of air/no air, (which I nailed, by the way) various scary looking tools were used to mold, snip, and bend, all the while the glass is about a zillion degrees.
For the finale, the fragile piece is nestled into the oven for hours and hours. Fingers crossed. Maybe a silent prayer. (This is a Kim-project after all, and as I mentioned in my earlier post “Out of the Closet” I am craft-challenged.)
The end result is a beautiful creation of glass. Art in itself.
All this from timeless sand, refined in the fire till the grains are smooth, the colors unique, the shape one-of-a-kind. It evolves under a masters hand into something amazing.
Kind of like us.
You use a glass mirror to see your face;
you use works of art to see your soul.
George Bernard Shaw
AARONTATE.COM Aaron Tate Glassworks(206)387-9228
Song Reference: The Byrds Turn, Turn, Turn http://youtu.be/eiprqeaydik
(Lyrics taken from Ecclesiastes chapter 3 KJV)